My Body’s Love/Hate Relationship with Cambodia

2 07 2012

Tim and I recently had our mid-service medical exams. And, lo and behold, we are still alive! In fact, in many respects we’re as healthy as ever. My blood pressure results were the best they’ve been. My pulse rate was in the healthy range. I even came out of the past year cavity-free, which sort of seems like a miracle given my new addiction to Coke and sweet tea.

However, in addition to making us healthy, Cambodia has also taken a toll on our bodies. For one, with the constant heat, it’s hard to stay hydrated. Being dehydrated here really hampers my productivity and energy levels. Then there are the recurring digestive issues that often accompany living abroad. Plus the scrapes and bruises. The sore back from an uncomfortable bed. The lack of sleep due to music at the wat or a dog fight or a crying baby. The fevers that sneak up on you. None of these things by itself is all that terrible but the truth of the matter is that I rarely feel 100 percent here, and I think many volunteers would agree.

Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, we now grab fruit like this one when we want a snack

Tim and I have been extremely lucky to avoid any major illnesses though. Dengue fever, in particular, seems to be the bane of many volunteers here. This year, Cambodia has seen a 340 percent increase in cases of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness often referred to as break-bone fever because of the extreme pain patients feel while infected. We’ve taken the necessary precautions—such as spraying our clothing with permethrin, sleeping under a mosquito net, keeping our bodies covered and dousing any exposed skin with deet—but there’s only so much we can do to protect ourselves.

All of this is to say that my body has a love/hate relationship with Cambodia. I eat more fruits and vegetables than I did at home. I consume less fat and fewer processed foods. I rely on my feet or my bike to get around. But I’m also exposing myself to unrelenting heat, unclean food and mosquito-borne illnesses. All in all, though, we’ve been quite lucky in the health department this past year, so let’s hope we can finish service with no major health issues.

Katie

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One response

4 07 2012
Adam

I feel like the risks of Dengue were downplayed when your friends from Pittsburgh visited……
We have missed hanging with yinz ever since we left, I hope we see you sooner rather than later, you have awesome adventures on a regular basis, and you stay healthy.

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